Samson Kambalu statue comes to Scotland!

04 August 2022

The SMP is delighted to have brokered the loan of ‘Ghost Antelope’, the statue by leading Malawian artist Prof Samson Kambalu, to the Scottish Parliament, where it will be on public display from August to the end of October 2022.

Artist Samson Kambalu meets with Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone MSP. Credit: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament. 04 August 2022.
Artist Samson Kambalu meets with Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone MSP. Credit: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament. 04 August 2022.

Samson, and his Scottish wife Susan, are longstanding friends of the Scotland Malawi Partnership. Together, they spoke at our 2021 AGM and, at that time, the SMP invited Prof Kambalu to have a version of ‘Antelope’ exhibited in Scotland. Samson’s preference was that this took place at the Scottish Parliament and the SMP was delighted to make this happen.

The SMP joined Samson and Susan at the Scottish Parliament on the 4th August for its installation at the Parliament. We were delighted to be the first to see the statue exhibited in Scotland and, together, meet the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer, Alison Johnstone MSP.

We are hugely grateful to Samson and Susan for the loan of the piece and to the Scottish Parliament (including Liam McAthur MSP) for all their assistance. We are especially grateful to our commercial sponsor for this exhibition, SMP Members, Orbis Expeditions. It would not have been possible to have the work in Scotland without the support of Orbis, who are leaders in Scotland-Malawi responsible travel and long-standing partners and supporters of the Scotland Malawi Partnership.

How to view ‘Ghost Antelope’

‘Ghost Antelope’ is on display in the Main Hall of the Scottish Parliament and anyone can view it, without charge. We encourage members to visit it. Visitors have to go through airport style security to get to the Main Hall but do not require a pass or an invitation to view the statue as it is in the public area. At the conclusion of the World Press Photo exhibition, ‘Ghost Antelope’ will move to a more central location in the Main Hall.

We are delighted that, to ensure the widest possible audience, the three months of ‘Ghost Antelope’s public display will include the Festival of Politics, the International Culture Summit, and Black History Month. At the conclusion of ‘Ghost Antelope’s time at the Scottish Parliament, the SMP has been invited to host a three-day exhibition in Parliament (25-27 Oct), to brief MSPs on the many civic links between Scotland and Malawi.

Samson & Susan: a Scotland-Malawi partnership!

Malawi-born Professor Samson Kambalu is a highly respected artist, academic and author who trained as a fine artist and ethnomusicologist at the University of Malawi's Chancellor College. He is an Associate Professor of Fine Art and MFA Course Tutor at the Ruskin, and a Fellow at Magdalen College at the University of Oxford.

Prof Kambalu jokes that he has had his own ‘Scotland-Malawi partnership’ for over 20 years now, having met his wife Susan Kambalu (a Scot) in Malawi while she was working at Kachere Books with (SMP member) Scottish Churches World Exchange. They were married by founding SMP member Rev Bobby Anderson.

About the work

‘Ghost Antelope’ is a bronze statue representing the pan-Africanist John Chilembwe (1871-1915), a key figure in the resistance to colonialism in Nyasaland (now Malawi). Beside him, on a smaller scale, and facing a different direction, stands the European missionary John Chorley.

John Chilembwe is depicted wearing a hat: a potent symbol given, during colonial rule, Malawians were expected to remove their headwear when passing, or in the presence of, a European; as well as stopping and standing to one side. This courtesy was seldom acknowledged or returned by a European, hence justified outrage.

Trafalgar Square

The larger-than-life version of ‘Antelope’ will feature on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square from 14th September, for two years. The SMP has been invited by the Mayor of London to join Samson and Susan in London for its unveiling.

The fourth plinth is arguably one of the world’s most famous art commissions. It stood empty until 1998, when it was decided to use the space to bring contemporary art and debate to millions for free. With strong support from SMP members, Prof Samson’s work won the public vote last year to decide which of the six shortlisted works will sit on the fourth plinth.

Trafalgar Square (like many parts of Scotland) has numerous statues and memorials celebrating British colonial power. We very much look forward to the installation of ‘Antelope’ on the fourth plinth: John Chilembwe will literally size up to the occupants of the other plinths, monuments of imperial rule.

The SMP is committed to raising awareness of Malawi’s history, most especially its fight against colonial power. Members of the SMP have included leading historians such as Prof John McCracken, Dr John Lwanda, Dr Jack Thompson and Prof Ken Ross, who have worked to help amplify Malawi’s powerful voices from this time. The Kambalu’s have spoken of the inspiration they have drawn from this work and were part of the SMP’s book launch for ‘Politics, Christianity and Society in Malawi’.

Prof Kambalu also had an exhibition at Modern Art Oxford, which featured readings from the Commission on the Chilembwe Rising that the late Prof John McCracken compiled from the archives, with SMP support.